Hearty meals prepared in El Salvador for sister-city delegation
El Salvador tastes like pupusas, nuégados, ejotes, atól and tamales. Fat corn tortillas filled with cheese, meat and beans; sweet yucca pancakes; tiny fried fish; thick drinks of corn, rice or fruit; and tamales wrapped in green banana leaves.
Seven American delegates traveling in El Salvador with the Grand Junction-based Foundation for Cultural Exchange spent Sunday receiving heartfelt greetings and heaps of food from several Salvadoran families.
Traveling in a van and on foot, up steep dirt paths and through stands of banana plants, the small delegation made several home visits Sunday morning.
The house where Douglas Enmanuel, 18, lives with his family sits atop a hill, through a corn field and in the middle of MS 13 gang territory. His mother, María Inés, greeted the group with Styrofoam cups filled to the brim with horchata and homemade cookies served on baked corn husks. Toni Riggs’ mother, Becky, contributes yearly to the foundation’s scholarship program, so that Enmanuel may continue study in English at the Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador.
“Douglas reminds me a lot of my little brother,” Riggs said. “He’s really quiet, but he has so much to say and is so smart.”
Each subsequent home visit the delegation made, five in total, went similarly, though they varied in food and company. Xiomara’s mother served each visitor a piece of cooked corn with lime while the family’s turkeys roamed the patio, hoping for a stray kernel; David Alexander and his mother ensured their guests had either coffee or Coca-Cola in hand; Esli Sarai’s parents and siblings handed out packets of chocolate-covered cookies to their guests; and Wilman Iván’s mother let her son show off his summer paint job on the outside of the home while his younger brother showed off the family’s sheep.
“It’s something I can’t put into words,” Wilman, a second-year university student studying natural sciences, said about meeting Jessica Geddes, who has sponsored him for three years. “It’s so exciting to think, ‘I’m finally going to meet my godmother.’ “
In the afternoon, the delegation was met with more food, as nearly each of the 23 scholarship students and their families had prepared traditional Salvadoran dishes to share with each other and their American guests. More than a dozen dishes were presented and each student spoke briefly about their dish’s preparation.
With stomachs full, the delegates and their hosts spent what remained of the day in quiet conversation with parents and students and hacky-sack games with the younger children, gearing up for today’s activities at the local school.